My name is Kylee Leathem, and I am an addictions counsellor at Sharp Treatment Center, Johannesburg. I hold an honours degree in clinical and counselling psychology and currently busy with a psychology research masters dissertation in the specific interest area of addiction treatment. To me addiction is a multifaceted disease, one often under disrepute and skepticism from the general public and in our media today. The media and ‘pop psychology’ literature often represents addiction and substance abuse as belonging to the poor, weak willed, troubled and sometimes just rebellious or deviant individuals. There is often questioning around whether addiction should be treated as a disease concept, or whether the addicted individual is just lacking willpower and show inability to make sufficient life choices.

A common question asked is what causes addiction, who or what is responsible. There is no single factor which can unfortunately answer this question. To explore this one needs to consider addiction from a multi-systemic or contextual perspective. Addiction is an interplay between biological and psycho-social factors. Psycho-social factors do not cause substance abuse, but they can exacerbate a vulnerability in the individual. I have often heard addiction therapists say that genetic factors load the gun and environment pulls the trigger.

Addiction is often a misunderstood phenomena which can lead to the maltreatment of those addicted individuals. This is why I feel that addiction treatment is something that should be practiced with extreme caution and should be handled by experienced individuals with care. In my time spent in the addiction field, I have worked closely with addictions specialist Lise Jerome. In my experience, Lise has shown all the necessary skills which make her a highly accomplished addiction specialist and interventionist. Her specializations include conducting assessments, referrals to the right rehabs, referrals for dual diagnosis, interventions, family addiction therapy, one-on-one therapy, and group therapy. Through her many years of experience in the addiction field, Lise truly shows an understanding of addiction, the impact it has on oneself, and family dynamics. Lise also shows her understanding that part of being in addiction often entails going through experience which leaves one feeling vulnerable and unsettled and dealing with this on your own is no easy task.